an initiative of ACCORD

General cleaning & sanitising

General cleaning and sanitising – WHY?

Cleaning removes soils, stains, grease, debris, marks, rust, dust, lint, cobwebs and odours which can arise, through use or non-use, on surfaces, floors & stairs, windows, fixtures, furnishings, appliances and equipment.

Not only does cleaning remove substances that may harbour microorganisms, it also makes areas much more comfortable and enjoyable to spend time in. This is important in every “out and about” setting.

Cleaning is different to sanitising. Sanitising reduces the numbers of viable microorganisms so that they pose minimal threat to human health. This is especially important where the risk of cross infection needs to be minimised, e.g. in food preparation and handling; in hospitals and clinics; in veterinary practices; for laundering specific items or in specific situations; and in nursing homes. Sanitising is also referred to as disinfecting.

One step further is sterilisation, which means killing all microorganisms or in the object. Sterilisation is required in certain situations in hospitals e.g. for surgical equipment.

General cleaning and sanitising – HOW?

Professional cleaning staff, using I&I cleaning products and specialised I&I cleaning equipment, are often responsible for maintaining good levels of hygiene “out and about”.

There are many I&I cleaning and sanitising products. These are designed either for general use or for one of many specific purposes. The wide range of products available means that cleaning and janitorial staff can get the job done efficiently and effectively by using a product that matches the task, leaving the area clean, hygienic and comfortable.

  • General purpose cleaners are for routine cleaning of non-porous surfaces. They can be acid, alkaline or solvent-based, and some also disinfect.
  • Floor cleaners include carpet cleaners, concrete floor cleaners, timber floor cleaners, buffing solutions and floor strippers.
  • Hard surface cleaners include washroom cleaners, spray and wipe cleaners, window cleaners, stainless steel cleaners and graffiti-removal products. There are also specific toilet hygiene products such as toilet bowl and urinal cleaners, urinal blocks and tablets.
  • Automotive cleaners include paint cleaners (and polishes) and internal cleaners for hard and upholstered surfaces.
  • Abrasive cleaners can be powders, liquids or creams containing small particles of hard, insoluble scouring ingredients. The friction of rubbing these particles across a surface helps to remove any soil.
  • Spot & stain removers can be used on soft surfaces such as upholstery and carpet.
  • Heavy duty cleaners and degreasers are for highly soiled and greasy surfaces, and can be for general purposes or specific uses such as oven cleaners, floor cleaners, engine and mechanical parts cleaners.
  • Hand hygiene products include bar soaps and dispensed liquid, foam and gel cleansers and sanitisers.
  • Disinfectants are used to sanitise certain areas where the risk of cross infection is high, as described above. Classes of disinfectants include chlorinated compounds, iodine-based compounds, quaternary ammonium compounds, peroxides, acid-anionic compounds, and alcohols. Different disinfecting agents are active against different pathogens.

In addition to this extensive range of cleaning products, cleaning tools include brooms, mops, vacuum cleaners and steam cleaners, scrubbers, scourers, rags, dusters, squeegees, sprays and dispensers.

**Special Case – Hospitals**

In hospitals there are many potential pathways for pathogens to enter the human body: open wounds from surgery, catheters into blood vessels and the urinary tract, ventilators inserted through the nose or throat. All of these bypass or compromise the body’s natural defences.

In Australia, hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are the most common complication for hospital patients.

Hand hygiene, cleaning and sanitising are vital measures in preventing HAIs.

Complicating the issue of HAIs has been the emergence of “hospital superbugs” - an issue causing growing concern in recent years. These “superbugs” are strains within a particular species of bacteria that have developed resistance to certain antibiotics or disinfecting agents.

Resistant strains can arise when a bacterial population is not completely killed by an antibacterial agent. Survivors possess some resistance to the antibacterial agent and are able to pass on this resistance as their genes are replicated in the next generation. Once a “superbug” enters the human body it can be very hard to treat.

In hospitals it is important to use a disinfectant product that is effective against the microorganism, and to use it correctly. For example, alcohol-based disinfectants do not kill C. difficile spores, rather a bleach solution must be used. And resistant strains could develop if insufficient product is used, or the cleaning solution is too dilute, or the cleaning method is not thorough enough.

I&I cleaners and sanitisers are indispensable in minimising HAIs in hospitals and other health care facilities.


useful stuff...


A 2009 Australian study showed that 29% of men and 9% of women didn't wash their hands after using a shopping centre public toilet.11 In the office, high-bacteria surfaces include the desktop, mouse and keyboard; and in communal kitchens beware coffee cups, dishcloths and the microwave button!22 Australia's money is some of the cleanest in the world! Our polymer banknotes were found to have fewer bacteria than older money.12
There are an estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in Australia every year.13

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